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Stroke Awareness:
Know the Symptoms, Treatments that Can Help Save a Life

If you’ve been to a ball game at Comerica ballpark this summer, you occupied one of the 40,000 seats in the stadium. But what if the stadium was four times the size and filled with fans? That’s about 160,000 people - the same number of people who will die from a stroke this year. 

A stroke is a “brain attack” that cuts off vital blood and oxygen to brain cells. It is the third leading cause of death in America, after heart disease and cancer.  Every 45 seconds in the United States, someone experiences a stroke, according to the National Stroke Foundation. And yet, a recent survey found that many people are not aware of the symptoms or urgency of treating a stroke.

If you’re over age 55, have high blood pressure or cholesterol, have diabetes, or have a family history of stroke, you are at the highest risk. If you have one or more of these risk factors, it’s even more important that you exercise regularly, eat low-fat foods, avoid smoking and successfully manage your blood pressure and sugar. With your doctor’s approval, taking a baby aspirin daily may even help to lower your risk.

Symptoms of stroke are abrupt, depending on the area of the brain affected. One could experience confusion, headache, visual disturbance, difficulty speaking or swallowing, dizziness, numbness or paralysis in the face, arm or leg, or an unsteady gait.

If you are in the presence of someone who may be having a stroke, try to protect him or her from falling or injuring himself or herself. Do not attempt to give them anything to eat or drink, as they may aspirate, or inhale liquid into the lungs, and choke. 9-1-1- should be dialed immediately.

Most people know the importance of seeking immediate treatment for a heart attack. The same sense of urgency applies to stroke.

The first three hours after a stroke are the most critical. If you arrive at the hospital within three hours of the onset of a stroke, a clot-busting drug may be given through an IV. If a clot buster drug cannot be given, because of the type of stroke or because it is beyond the time frame for this type for drug treatment, the clot may be removed or dissolved by advancing a catheter to the brain artery.

Talk to your doctor to find out if you are at risk for a stroke.

When it comes to treating a stroke, there’s no time for a seventh-inning stretch.

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Boomers Resource Guide is a special supplement to the Senior Citizen's Guide